Thursday, October 5, 2017

Majoring in Minor Things

Not too long ago I heard a sermon where a preacher said that the Lord had recently told him that the saints were majoring in minors. What he was speaking about was they were too concerned about how people dressed and appeared. Yet, this message spoke to me on a different level. Oh, I am not hung up on how people dress when they go to church. Heck, given the current state of evangelical doctrine and the error that is ever present, I am not hung up on people going to church.

So back to majoring in minors... This is at the crux of what is wrong with evangelical doctrine these days. Jesus focus was redemptive. This is obvious from John 5:39-40 & Luke 24:27, 43-45. So then, the mandate for the church as I see it is to major/focus on the gospel and Jesus. That is where all the emphasis should be placed. Methods of baptism and other creed concerns are far less important.

This is why I think that 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 is so vital in our understanding of the gospel, and in reality, the best statement of the gospel. The passage of this letter from 3:1 through 5:21 is important in understanding what the "majors" are. Paul differentiates between the new covenant and the old covenant in this passage. He starts out by calling the Old Covenant the ministry of death, and conversely gets on to the New Covenant being the ministry of the Spirit and life.  He points out in chapter 4 that the New Covenant provides something better and unique. The ministry of life is housed in earthen jars as Paul poetically points out that though we are human and flesh, Christ and His ministry is alive within us.

The "major" is not placed on the letter of the law. It is not placed in a read and do context. It is not necessitated by a legal constitutional reading of scripture. That was Old Covenant. That was wrapped in the fact that if one obeyed the legal requirements there were blessings, and if one was not obedient there was curses. We find out that Christ took on the curse/curses of the law for us. Since the Gentile was never really under the law, this was more for the Jew, but still is a benefit to the Gentile. Why? So that the promises of Deuteronomy 28 could be "yes and amen" for all, both Jew and Gentile. In essence, both Jew and Gentile can be blessed in the city and in the field, blessed coming and going. The question is not are we blessed. The question is do we believe we are blessed?

Therefore the major idea is Christ and the gospel. Yet, it seems that it is so often neglected in favor of explaining to people how they can improve morally. People are scolded and shamed about their lack of being able to measure up to the law. It would be laughable if it was not so brutally true. So you ask, why was there so much ink in the New Testament about the law and obedience? The answer is quite simple. It was before the destruction of the temple when God made his choice in who his real children were. The Jews still had the old covenant in force. Once the temple was destroyed, there was practically no Old Covenant. There was no means of atonement. The reason was that the atonement of Christ was a once for all act.

Certainly the law can inform us in what love looks like. I am not railing against the law to show us the heart of God, and how we should treat our fellow humanity. I am arguing that it is wrong to allow the law to determine our righteousness. The thing in the new covenant that determines our righteousness, our right standing before God is faith in Christ and God's grace.  Further, real true faith in the grace and love of God will produce within us, supernaturally, a love for God that will translate into us being more loving and actually more obedient,. It is strictly a matter of focus.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Love Letter to the Broken Hearted: Part 3 Humble yourself as a child

Matthew 18:3 NASB and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew chapter eighteen has a valuable lesson for us if we will look at it with fresh eyes. It is important for me to emphasize fresh eyes. Fresh eyes means in this case with a shift in paradigms. It is the shift that Jesus himself taught, and likewise the one that his first century followers who wrote the New Testament writings taught. What was the shift you ask? Well, according to John 5:39-40 it was a shift to a redemptive purpose for the scripture. You can also find it backed up in Luke 24:27 & 43-45. With this in mind... let's take a look at Matthew 18:3 in its wider context. Jesus disciples asked him a question. Here is the passage Matthew 18:1-6 NASB "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (2) And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, (3) and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (4) "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (5) "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; (6) but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."

If one has a paradigm that demands a legal constitutional reading of scripture the above words of Jesus could be very scary. However, with an understanding of first century Judaism, which would allow one to understand His words as his disciples would it takes on a significantly different meaning. Notice that Jesus called a child to Himself and set "him" before them. So, it was not just any child it was a male child. So what you ask? Well, in first century Judaism it was important for young boys to go to Torah school. In fact, they attended until the age of twelve. It was no doubt near a Torah school that Jesus was speaking with his disciples. They often met outside because the weather warranted it. So then, it is in answer to the question who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven that he calls this young boy to him. One can imagine that this was a young student. One who had not studied long. 

The point Jesus was making to his disciples was that they are going to have to turn around and forget what they have learned. The only way to enter the kingdom, much less be greatest, is to forget your religious upbringing. Think about that for a minute. I am not just pulling this out of my hat. I am basing it on what Jesus taught, and how things were in the first century. All of his disciples had been to Torah school. They currently may be fishermen now, but when they were young they went to Torah school just like this little one. But there is more in the story....

This little person also believed in Jesus. That is, he believed Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus also knew that there was a chance that as the little one grew up and learned in Torah school that he could be persuaded not to believe in Jesus any longer. The scribes and Pharisees, men similar to this little ones teachers, used the Torah to prove that Jesus was not the Messiah (John 7:46-52.) So who is Jesus addressing in the sixth verse of the above Matthew passage? It is anyone who uses the scripture to cause one to stumble, and not believe in the grace and goodness of God. There are tons of preachers who should be concerned about this. They take baby saints, just converted, and use the scripture to beat them over the head to get them to walk the chalk. 

However, this is yet another love letter to the brokenhearted. In fact, the entire scripture has the redemptive purpose of guiding one to a child like faith in Jesus, and the love and grace of the Father. Yet, how many times have you seen someone use this passage to beat people up. Jesus was simply telling his disciples that the only way that they will experience the true kingdom of heaven, which is also the kingdom of God is by faith. Faith in a loving Father that was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself not counting trespasses. One that had made Christ who knew no sin to be made sin so that those believing could be the righteousness of God in and through Him.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Love letter to the brokenhearted: Part 2

Matthew 11:28-30 HCSB "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. (30) For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

This is a second post in the series, Love Letter to the Brokenhearted. I will post a link at the bottom to the first one in case you have not yet read it. 

If you are happy with your continual striving to please God this is not for you. But if you continually try to please God only to find that you are never certain you do, and are stressed out wondering if you are truly on the correct path then read on. It saddens me to see all the people who are striving to the point of being completely burned out to be obedient, to be a good saint, to help the church cause, to give enough, to win the favor of leadership, and on and on. This is not new. There were many in the first century in Jesus time that were under the same pressure. That is why Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 11:28-30. There were then, and are now, a multitude of folks that were weary and burdened. If you are like a rat or mouse on a wheel, chasing you're not sure what. Get off!

The yoke of a disciple is easy and the burden is light. Too many leaders keep people on a treadmill, and dangle in front of them a carrot on a stick. You will be blessed if you do this. Your work will be rewarded and on and on. All the while, the leaders are not doing what they are supposed to do. What are they supposed to do you ask? They are supposed to be proclaiming the gospel, (God's Good News.) Instead, they ignorantly continue to try to keep you from sinning. They focus on sin. They focus on works. They focus on disobedience. They focus on God's wrath. They focus on what you must do to be in right standing with the Father. THEY SELDOM FOCUS ON THE GOOD NEWS!

Yet Jesus is saying come unto me and I will give you rest. Rest from what? Rest from striving. Rest from fear of the Father. Rest from a sense of failure. Rest from worry. This is why Paul spoke these words to the Corinthian saints. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses to them, and instead made the one who knew no sin to be made sin for the sinner, that the sinner might become the righteousness of God.... How so, by God's declaration!

There is so much misunderstanding about preaching. There is so much misunderstanding about the calling and mission of a preacher. The New Testament forcefully states that they should only preach the gospel. Preaching is not yelling at people. We have a connotation today of the word preach to be scolding. When the New Testament says go into the world and preach, it means proclaim. Shout it from the rooftops. Proclaim what? PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL! It is the ministry of reconciliation. The reconciliation is complete. Paul says tell people they HAVE BEEN RECONCILED to God. That is part of God's love letter to humanity. It is not presented often enough. Sure those who have ignorantly preached a different gospel, or something different then the gospel will be judged for that. One day they will give account, and realize their error, however that does not help the multitudes who have been brow beaten, and wearied, and burdened.

Just rest! You have been reconciled to God! Demand that your leaders dwell on the truth and proclaim the gospel. I guarantee that if they truly proclaim the good news that people will work and not be weary. They will strive out of love and not be burdened. They will run to assembling to hear the good news, and the Holy Spirit will use the good news to transform saints into the image of Christ.

If you are weary and burdened, it is not Christ that has caused it. It is men. REST!

Monday, August 28, 2017

A love letter to the brokenhearted: Part 1

Isaiah 61:1 HCSB The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners;

This blog is going to begin a new series, and take the blog in a new direction. In the past, I have ministered to those who think they know God's will, think they have correct doctrine but are sadly on the wrong path. My heart breaks for the state of religion and the church. Too many people are too religious, and too busy trying to establish their own righteousness to really apprehend and benefit from the love of God.

However! If you are brokenhearted, tired of the struggle to perform, feel as though you have been a failure, this blog is shifting to be a beacon of light and love for you. Yes, there are those out there that will read this blog post, realize that they are unsatisfied in their spiritual life and desperate for an answer. If this is you down deep inside, be encouraged. The gospel was NEVER meant to provide a self help solution to your moral dilemma. The gospel was meant to provide a bridge over the gap you feel in the separation between you and the creator of the universe that loves you so much that you cannot even comprehend it!

I'm reminded of the beatitudes. Jesus said blessed are the poor in spirit. The Greek word that is translated poor is POCHOS... it means destitute, beyond hope. The reason that Jesus said the poor in spirit was blessed was because they were the substance of the kingdom of heaven. Yes my friend. If poor in spirit, destitute in spirit describes you way down deep in the recesses of your deepest most secret self, then indeed you are the stuff the kingdom of heaven is made of.

The verse from Isaiah that I have quoted at the top of this post is Jesus' mission statement. He said so when he quoted it in a synagogue in Luke chapter 4. The really good news is that He wants to heal your broken heart, no matter what your current situation is. Throw away the demands that the religionists have saddled you with and concentrate on the love of the Father demonstrated in the earthly mission of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are brokenhearted because you can't seem to measure up to religious standards that have been foisted on you by ignorant people who are without understanding when it comes to the real gospel and the true message of Jesus. You need to just simply believe. Now belief is not just a mental assent to an idea. Belief is an apprehension of the depth of the love of God. If you are having a hard time believing what I am writing here, just go back through the many blog posts where I have shown over and over in a multitude of ways why those who put the focus on religion are wrong. I have article after article of chapter and verses that prove how wrong the religious are. But I suggest that you simply listen to the words of the Apostle Paul that I am going to quote below.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 HCSB (17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. (18) Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (19) That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. (20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God." (21) He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Read that over and over and over until you understand exactly what it is saying to you. No matter what you see, feel, or hear, if you have turned to Christ,  YOU ARE a new creature! Think about the ramifications of the following... God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT COUNTING THEIR TRESPASSES AGAINST THEM! Further, read that He made Jesus, the one who did not even know sin to be made sin for us.... why, so that we could in-turn be the righteousness of God in Him.

It is simple... YOU ARE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD!.  Believe it, apprehend it with every fiber of your being, rest in it and BE ENCOURAGED! More to come in this vain so stay tuned.....




Thursday, August 10, 2017

The New, "Politically Correct"

I think it was a right wing talk show host who originally coined the phrase "politically correct." It was a reaction to the left wing's effort to acknowledge and control sexism and racism in conversation. It certainly fell within the category of trying to impede free speech in favor of being socially polite. Yes, it was carried too far many times. And yes, sometimes it was down right silly.

However, now there has broken onto the scene a "political correctness" that is sinister and seeks to control free speech on the part of those who want to be socially sensitive and inclusive. It is the "politically correct" standard espoused by the far right and it is enforced by bullying and vulgar badgering. Yes, a new day has indeed dawned, and the pendulum has swung so far to the right that I fear we are in danger of repercussions that could be very damaging to the fabric of our society.

The new "political correctness" is touted by ignorant puppets of right-wing radio talk show hosts who have fomented this vitriol speech while making themselves mega-millionaires, many of whom cannot possibly believe what they say. Adding to this, politics itself is being taken over by these types of individuals. It has developed to the point that now our countries President is spewing this new form of political correctness on twitter. It my view it is disgraceful

The problem is there is no middle road. The factions in this country are so polarized that it is impossible for Congress and the Senate to get anything done. Healthcare needs a drastic overhaul and it needs to be reformed. The Affordable Care Act became anything but that. The reason in my view is that it was a one party effort. Had the moderates of each party been willing to work together they could have achieved something that would have really helped to change the broken system. Instead, they continue to force the pendulum to swing endlessly from left to right and then back from right to left. When will we realize that neither side of the ideological spectrum can really help. It can only truly be changed by compromise. A good solution has everyone a little upset. Why, because it is the fair solution. However, with a good solution, everyone can overlook their concerns because on the whole, it works for everyone. That is completely missing today in the current political arena.

While the politicians, (both sides of the isle) and the radio personalities, (again both sides) understand that a lot of their message is political rhetoric, and hyperbole, the crazies on the fringes do not. This breeds an atmosphere that will almost surely explode into violence at some point. The ugliest side of this conflict can be seen daily on social media. However, I believe that there is a "silent majority" (never thought I would be using that phrase) that really would like to see our government actually govern with compromise, forging acceptable solutions that would ultimately be acceptable to all. Again, not loved by all, but acceptable to all.

Further, those in political power need to tackle head on all of the areas of conflict. There needs to be discussions of race, gender, and class that actually acknowledges and seeks to address and improve the situation as it currently exists. I believe that if politicians in general would heed this advice and behave in this manner that they would not have a problem at election time. Likewise, politicians need to have the courage to reform election funding. Corporations are given an unfair advantage in the current system and need to be brought under control. With the current structure of financing campaigns. Corporations, and the uber wealthy have an unfair advantage in the actual legislation process.

I am calling for moderation and not a president who cannot quit tweeting and a house and senate that cannot ever compromise with the other party.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Word

John 1:1-17 HCSB In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was with God in the beginning. (3) All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. (4) Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. (5) That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. (6) There was a man named John who was sent from God. (7) He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. (8) He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. (9) The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. (10) He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him. (11) He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. (12) But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, (13) who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.

(14) The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, "This was the One of whom I said, 'The One coming after me has surpassed me, because He existed before me.'") (16) Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, (17) for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Every time I hear someone speak about the word, realizing that they mean the bible, I cringe. It hits me deeply in my Spirit, and not in a good way. Moreover, when one refers to the bible as the word, it gives it a status that puts it on par with God himself. First of all, it is necessary to understand the use and meaning of language from the first century. It was a time where Jewish Religion and Greek Philosophy had reached its zenith. Paul Tillich, the Lutheran Theologian stated that Christ came on the scene at the ripe time in history. It was the time when the gospel message could properly be understood. In Greek, the word is the logos. Greek philosophy had defined the logos as the divine seed. The logos was much more than the spoken or written word. It was the creative force in the universe.

In essence, the New Testament teaches that the word, logos was Jesus Christ. It is absurd to put Jesus on the same plain as a book. I know that theologians have meant well. They wanted to elevate the bible over other books. The fact is though, and I have proven it over and over again in the posts of this blog, that Jesus and his first century followers defined the word of God as the gospel. It is the good news of Jesus Christ the word made flesh. If you look at verse 14 of the above passage, it can readily be seen that the creative force became human flesh and made his dwelling among humanity. It was for a purpose however. The purpose was to bring for the gospel (good news) of God. Jesus was the gospel of God. He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was before the world was, before creation. Paul, in Ephesians explains that God chose BEFORE the foundation of the world, BEFORE anything was created, to bless humanity with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So you see, that not only is the bible not on par with Jesus, it is not on par with the gospel. In fact, Jesus stated in John 5:39-40 that the purpose of the scripture was to point to, prophesy about, and proclaim the gospel. When I say gospel, I do not mean the books written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I mean the fact of the good news. That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. And, in Ephesians, Paul explains that it was God's plan from before creation. There is so much misunderstanding in evangelical Christianity about this. It is time to awake and see what God has done in Christ. I mean what really God has done in Christ. He has completely restored the creation. That's why John writes in verse 17 of the above passage that the Law was given through Moses, but that GRACE and TRUTH was brought about and through Jesus.

Had the law not been given, there would never be an understanding of grace. It was necessary to give the Law to establish the wondrous aspect of grace. And furthermore, Grace is the TRUTH. Grace is the very nature of God. Yes, Jesus was God manifested in human flesh and verse 14 of the above passage says that he was full of GRACE and TRUTH. He was the exact image of God the father so that means that God is grace and truth.

This is precisely the reason that so many of the Jews rejected Jesus. It too was part of God's gracious plan. Romans 11:5-6 HCSB In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace. (6) Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace. God had given the Jews the Law to underscore the meaning of grace. They mistakenly thought that they had received it for righteousness. So then, Jesus came on the scene, full of grace and truth to introduce the heart of the Father concerning His creation. The Law was never meant for righteousness. In fact, that is why Paul said in Romans ten that Christ was the end of the Law for righteousness. The purpose of the Law was to show us how truly great grace was! It was to show us how to be at peace with God by grace, and just how fortunate we are that God is full of grace and truth.

Back to the word... I love the scripture. I know that it is God breathed. It is not a legal constitutional document however. It is a love story. It is God's love story of redemption that he had planned, purposed, and put into effect before creation. This is truly good news. My prayer is that the church will wake up to the real gospel..




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Are many evangelicals spiritual jihadists?

Notice right off the bat that I say many and not all evangelicals are spiritual jihadists. A Jihad is a holy war waged on behalf of Muslims, but is there a "holy war" being waged by evangelical fundamentalist Christians? I think so. No, they do not wage physical war. They are waging a war against people in the spiritual realm but it has a real physical effect. Please do not confuse what I am referring to as spiritual warfare. It is not that. This is a war that aims at killing the spirit, and the weapon of choice is the scripture. The purpose behind killing the spirit is to gain conformity to the norms of the group. It, in a nutshell, is designed to control.

You're probably saying to yourself, "isn't that a good thing?" The answer to your question is absolutely not! These evangelicals are using the scripture as a weapon in a way that it was NEVER meant to be used. Paul said that the letter kills while the Spirit gives life. How is the scripture used as a killing letter? The answer is simple. When it is viewed in a legal constitutional way, with a strong emphasis on literal interpretation, it becomes a lethal weapon. This has been brought to the forefront of my mind based on the reaction to Eugene Peterson and Bishop T. D. Jakes. They both have been mentioned in the press recently with what could be best described as evolving views on homosexuality and the church. And, they both have made public statements about it, and both are moving backward from what they originally said.This has been the result of this spiritual jihad in my view.

I have no doubt that their views are evolving. And, I think it is in no small part because of the work and witness of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit is active in many Christian pastors and theologians today working to show that the legal constitutional understanding and interpretation of scripture is a grossly damaging error that needs major correction. It is sad to me that they can be manipulated by these vocal spiritual jihadists. Jesus and his first century followers went to great lengths, and he was crucified in part, because of his efforts to change the view of the scripture from a legal constitutional document to a redemptive narrative. There is a lot of nuance in what he taught and much of it was necessary because of the legal constitutional understanding that the first century rabbis and Jews had. In fact, he came on the scene at a time when the legal constitutional reading of scripture was at its zenith. He chose rather to tell them that the purpose of the scripture was to point to him and thus bring life. He told the pharisees that the legal constitutional reading of scripture they were using did not, and would not bring life. Life only came through him and his Spirit. You can find the proof text for this in John 5:39-40 & Luke 24:27; 43-45.

The nuance comes into play with the two different covenants. The first being the Old Covenant or Mosaic Covenant for Jews and their converts only, and the New Covenant for all who would believe in Jesus as the Israel of God.... in other words, Israel the nation, and its scripture, was meant to point to Him alone. Much of what Jesus said is misconstrued because what he said was strictly to people under the Old Covenant before the New Covenant was instituted. Furthermore, Paul and the other writers of the first century scriptures were writing to a transition period, where the Old Covenant and the New Covenant were concurrently in operation. Since the destruction of the temple, the fulfillment of Jesus prophecy, there is no apparatus for the operation of the old covenant, so it is either the new covenant or nothing.

Even in the transition period before the destruction of the temple, Paul had already explained liberty of conscience on various matters. They had liberty of conscience on what to eat or not eat and what days to acknowledge and esteem. People today decide things like participating in war or not as a matter of the liberty of conscience. In my view, a loving monogamous couple, who have faith in Jesus can be a matter of the liberty of conscience no matter what their particular sexual preference is. I will let others debate the verses and terms that are used in the scripture that the debate centers on. However, the bottom line of all bottom lines is that Jesus and his first century followers who wrote the New Testament scriptures changed the focus from a legal constitutional document to the story of redemption. They did that in two ways. First, they stated that Jesus was the sole purpose and goal of the scripture, and second, they redefined the phrase "word of God" from Torah to the gospel and also Jesus the gospel made flesh.

Further, they explained a different dynamic for obedience. The new dynamic was to love. While some of the ways of loving would overlap with the commandments, the catalyst for doing so was peace with the Father via the gospel of grace. Peace with the Father would result in love for the Father that would translate into actions. I am convinced that the main focus that all Christians should have, and I include evangelicals in that group, should be the gospel of grace. That is the supernatural, spiritual catalyst for transformation.

However, evangelicals with a bent on legal constitutional interpretation of scripture continue to use the scripture as a weapon and it truly is lethal to the Spirit. It is a jihad that has overarching consequences and it will over time lead to the demise of the gospel.

Majoring in Minor Things

Not too long ago I heard a sermon where a preacher said that the Lord had recently told him that the saints were majoring in minors. What he...